Category Archives: BBQ

Tequila Boom-Boom Spare Ribs Recipe

Tequila Boom-Boom BBQ Sauce Spare Ribs

¡Hola, amigos! Here’s something different for you to swirl with the set of ingredients from the lands of Aztecs and Maya: Tequila Boom-Boom Sauce Spare Ribs recipe. If you are looking for something new to try this Father’s day, this might be of an interest. These ribs will assure your papa’s (+ party) complete satisfaction.  We devoured them with gusto and had a good Mexican laughabout any rib sauce we’ve tried previously including the sickly-sweet and flat commercial sauces. For the secret ingredients, I basically added some tequila and a few new capsicum varieties to my staple Cajun BBQ sauce. The base sauce has a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity as well as and a long record of successful meat and poultry basting for all kinds of events in case you will be looking for a kids-friendly version and would wish to omit tequila. However, the new version layered with tequila, arbol, ancho chiles and Cholula makes it better and bolder for my adult taste.

Tequila Boom-Boom BBQ Sauce
Tequila shot added to the BBQ spare rib sauce

The upside of this recipe is that you can make the ribs and sauce way in advance of the event (fully cooked or par-cooked),  up to 48 hours ahead if you keep it in the fridge and/or up to a week sealed and kept in the freezer saving yourself time and headache of the party prep. It will also travel well and will make a centerpiece appetizer or main.

The downside is that you would have to allow at least 3.5 hours to make it.

The most popular tequila Jose Cuervo makes an excellent base for Tequila Boom-Boom drink
Tequila Boom-Boom is actually a Mexican drink made of equal parts of tequila and Sprite (or similar, like 7Up or ginger ale) served in a rock glass with a dash of Grenadine syrup.  Another name of this drink is a Tequila Slammer, because of the way the drink is taken:  the fifth of the glass is empty to allow the mix of tequila and carbonated drink to fizz. You then put your hand over the top of the glass and slam it onto the bar counter to mix it. This move causes the drink to foam fast, so you have to drink it immediately, or it will spill. This drink is strong; I didn’t want to get intoxicated early in the afternoon, so I decided to give a splash of it to my favorite my favorite BBQ pork rib sauce I was making the other day.  The result was amazing, definitely worth sharing.  I marked Seven Up  optional in the recipe to make the sauce stickier and to cut on evaporation and caramelization time for your convenience.
Several dried capsicums and ground coffee are used in the rub and added to the BBQ sauce

Capsicums and the spice rubs are all rage this summer with dozens of new varieties and combinations coming from all over the globe. I am more than willing to try them all.  This recipe obviously took Mexican direction, so in addition to tequila I used crushed arbol flakes, ancho chile powder and Cholula spicy sauce, all originating from the Bestico (aka Mexico).  Naturally, you can have tequila swapped with whiskey, bourbon, gin or vodka depending on your preference and give it some other cultural direction to Memphis, St. Louis, etc. (the recipe gives a choice of chilis if pure Mexican fare is hard to find in your area).

Perfectly cooked ribs should be tender, but still juicy and not falling off the bone.

The recipe below is the oven BBQ method, which I much prefer to the grilling method for both, time and quality results. Albeit, I often combine both by baking ribs in the oven until ready and almost falling off the bone; and finishing them on a low BBQ heat for the basting part of 15 minutes. FYI, the most appreciated ribs are not supposed to fall off the bone. According to the famous carnivore, Jay Rayner, the best tasting pork ribs should be tender, but still juicy and well attached to the bone. The falling off the bone is a sign of an overcooked, overfrozen or over-re-heated meat. Properly cooked ribs should still have some resilience and chew and would pull cleanely off the bone with your teeth.

Rubbing spare ribs with the mix of spices and herbs.
Makin BBQ sauce and ribs’ brushing stage
Cutting spare ribs into individual portions

Voila, our succulent out of this world ribs are done and ready to be served.
OK, one rib down already while I’m still taking pictures! That’s a good sign. Someone’s gonna be happy tonight…

For the summer side course, keep it simple: boiled/grilled seasoned corn and refreshing coleslaw salad (recipe will follow shortly).  For the corn seasoning, try the Lime Chili Butter, OR brush it with my new favorite: Honey-Cinnamon Butter -1 tablespoon of salted butter melted with a dash of honey (or maple syrup) and a pinch of cinnamon.
Tequila Boom-Boom Spare Ribs with Russian Slaw and Honey Cinnamon Corn Sides
For the colder days, pasta with simple tomato sauce made from the garden tomatoes would make an amazing companion to these ribs. I suspect, Daddy won’t trade it for the world’s best cupcake as this would be so much better than mac n’ cheese.

Enjoy and don’t forget to serve the paper towels!

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TEQUILA BOOM-BOOM BBQ SPARE RIBS
Yields: 4 main to 8 appetizer portions
Ingredients:

1 rack of pork spare ribs (2 pounds, or 1 kg)

Spice Rub:
2 tablespoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon ancho chile or cayenne powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coffee
1/2 freshly ground black pepper
Tequila BBQ Sauce 

1 small dried arbol pepper, crushed, OR , 1 teaspoon of regular chili flakes

1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup tequila
1/4 cup Seven Up (optional)
juice of one lime
1 small onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
1/2 cup molasses, OR honey, OR maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon Cholula chili sauce, OR Tabasco
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Trim the ribs of any excess fat or sinew.  Remove the thin membrane from the back side of the ribs and discard (PS: I’m not always doing it, but this would prevent the ribs from coiling). Optionally, cut the rack in 4 individual portions for a better fit into the baking pan.

Combine the paprika, ancho chile powder, coarse salt, paprika, oregano, marjoram, cumin, garlic, onion powder, ground coffee and black pepper together in a mixing bowl to make a rub.  Rub the mixture into the ribs on both sides and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Place ribs into a baking pan (I prefer the glass one), cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.  Remove the foil, turn the ribs over. Cover back with foil and bake ribs for another 45 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the basting tequila sauce (see the instructions below). When done, the ribs will be tender and the meat will have shrunk back from the bones.
Lower the oven temperature to 275F. Brush the ribs generously with the Tequila BBQ sauce and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the ribs over and brush with the sauce. Return to the oven for 7-10 minutes. Repeat coating the ribs on both sides for another 5 minutes each side. Remove from the oven. Brush with extra sauce if wish be. Let stand for a few minutes, cut in individual portions if necessary and serve.

Tequila BBQ Sauce:

Soak the dried chili flakes in a small bowl with a few tablespoons of hot water to rehydrate for 5 minutes.  Add the soaked flakes, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, tomato paste, brown sugar, tequila, Seven Up, lime juice, onion, garlic, molasses, hot sauce and salt and pepper to the blender or food processor.  Pulse few times until the mixture is smooth. Equally, you can grate the onion and garlic and just mix the ingredients in a bowl with the fork.

How to Grill a Perfect Asparagus


”Summer is for leisure. Slow down. Take a break. Tune in,” the real me has been whispering to the other me for a long-long time. Multitasking and distractions have been my pet peeve this season (if not this year).  I’ve been so busy and exhausted I stopped admiring food for a while: simple fresh garden food. Can you imagine? What can be worse for the food blogger in summer? I felt food numb, almost like that hilarious food critic played by the legendary Louis de Funès in The Wingor Thigh movie (L’Aile ou la Cuisse) when he was stroke by engurdie(food numbness in French)  Naturally, I used this state as an excuse to start grilling dinners from anything I could grab fast on my way back home, mostly meat: bangers, steaks, chops, chicken breasts… Boys were happy, but soon enough I couldn’t tell apart grilled steak, pork, or chicken. They all tasted like trash to me and just added to the constant headache and fatigue. I wanted to slow down the time and get present again with the food I eat. I needed a good energy fuel. I started grilling peppers, zucchinis, radishes, scallions, eggplants, cauliflower to assuage the animal’s protein guilt and damage. Everything still tasted boring, but was at least a step up from just meat & salad. I’ve experimented with dozen takes on salsa verde and chimichurri… Hmm, better, but still boring. I couldn’t find the ingredient that would bring me back to life. I suppose this is what chefs or writers, or critics call BLOCK.  

Then the asparagus season came and I decided to stop for 30 minutes and took time to explore just ONE very simple thing: how to make a perfect grilled asparagus. The result was outstanding: I finally was able to enjoy my dinner. I also learned a new skill and for a split second actually felt accomplished. It brought me back to the focus I craved so much.

Fast, affordable, simple, elegant, light, nutritious, this dish made me happy. As they say, happiness is not perfect until it’s shared with others, so I’m sharing it with you. Packed with UMAMI, the mysterious mouth filling fifth flavor plays very well with 4 other taste receptors in this quite minimalistic dish. Asparagus is a known umami intensifier, which in this recipe is powerfully enhanced by the Asian-style brushing sauce made of olive/sesame oil, dash of soya sauce, garlic and Dijon and sesame seeds sprinkle. Wow, as simple as it is, it makes FLAVORS GALORE!

Asparagus is liked by almost everyone I know. Yet generally it is not seen as a source of huge inspiration. Well, this recipe was an inspiration to me. I’ve learned some invaluable tips on how to grill asparagus to the perfection. No biggie? Yes, biggie, because, guess what, I can almost bet, YOU didn’t know these HOWs either.

Tip No 1. Previously, I used Mark Bittman’s recipe to drizzle the asparagus with olive oil (sometimes I would stretch to bacon drippings, or duck fat) throw it on a BBQ for a good 10-15 minutes along with other vegetables. Although acceptable, my grilled asparagus always left much to be desired.

I suspected that time and temperature had to do with it, but so all us do with boiled eggs, yet very few actually know or take time to check the exact timing to boil a perfect egg hard, coddled (soft boiled), or mollet (semi-liquid yolk). Last year I was reading My Canada Eats Foie Gras memoir by food critic Jacob Richler and in one particular story famous Torontonian, Chef Marc Thuet, was explaining in a very core way that the perfectly cooked asparagus has to be al dente. A-HA!

Timing of the grilling process vary from chef to chef, critic to critic, home cook to home cook. After coming down from Bittman’s 10-15 minutes to 2-5 minutes suggested by the most famous chefs; I figured the best timing to have a medium sized asparagus grilled to perfection would be exactly  90 seconds each side as advised in this video by Chef Rodney Bowers from Toronto. This timing is best to deliver crunchy and crispy, real al dente spears you can even warm up next day in a microwave and no one would ever say it wasn’t right form a grill.

Tip No 2. I’ve always been frustrated with having to use giant tongs to grab the asparagus losing many valuable spears through the grill. It took me only few minutes to figure out the technique to grill a perfect asparagus from a pro: Sesame Grilled Asparagus recipe from Chef Steve Raichlen which I actually use for this post, with the brushing sauce slightly modified. He uses pre-soaked wooden toothpicks or bamboo skewers to make a raft boat from 4-5 spears at a time. What a genius idea!

Tip No 3. Finally, the dressing: before, during grilling, or after?  I tried all three and they all work well with me. Some don’t like the bitter touch of the burnt oil, so they prefer to season the grilled asparagus after. I personally love the taste of that char, so I brush the asparagus rafts before and during grilling.

Tip No 4. Is optional and relates to the gardening. Last fall, around mid-October I made an experiment and planted some cut offs of asparagus spears into our garden (1-2 inches deep). I completely forgot about it. Last week I was mulching and saw some tiny little asparagus sprouts popping up. WHOA! Definitely maybe I will be planting more this year (will try to use the leftovers all summer long too): it’s a beautiful perennial, great veg and makes one of the most beautiful foliage to please the eye of a picky gardener or a florist. Try it for yourself in preferably half-shadow, moist place (starting it close to compost would be the best idea) planting 3 to 4-inches long cut offs 1-2 inches deep.

That’s it for today. Please tell me if these tips worked with you.

Happy grilling!

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Two Years Ago: Fiddlehead Ferns Pasta
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SESAME GRILLED ASPARAGUS
Yields: 6 to 8 portions
Ingredients:
Wooden toothpicks or bamboo skewers
1 pound asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons mixed sesame seeds
Salt and black pepper

Instructions:

Soak skewers in cold water for 1 hour in a shallow pan. Drain and set aside.

Preheat grill to high. Snap off the woody bases of the asparagus and discard. Skewer 4 or 5 asparagus spears together, using the toothpicks or 2 bamboo skewers, forming a raft shape.

Combine the olive, sesame oil, soy sauce, mustard and garlic in a small bowl. Stir with a fork to mix. Brush this mixture on the asparagus rafts on both sides. Season the asparagus with a little salt and lots of pepper.

When ready to cook, place the asparagus rafts on the hot grate and grill until nicely browned on both sides, 90 seconds per side. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds as they grill. You can serve the asparagus as rafts or un-skewered.

Note: This recipe makes a large quantity. If necessary, cut the amounts of ingredients accordingly.

Adapted from: Sesame Grilled Asparagus, by Steve Raichlen

No Problem Jamaican Jerk from Sunny Negril

Last weekend was blessed with sunshine, we needed so badly to catch up with endless home and garden chores and have the final year’s swim. We also made some excellent grill dedicated to Jamaican Jerk. Traditionally slow-cooked and smoked to delicious perfection, Jerk is a passport to Jamaican street food. This recipe was brought from sunny Negril. If you are anything like me, once you tried a real thing you would always want to make it at home. We make it in every season, even in winter, yes, that’s how much we like it. There is something magical about the jerk, something very West Indies about, embracing all traditional spices, condiments and the taste of Caribbean in general. And it’s super-hot! Nice green salad and beer are the must companions for the Jerk.
Away from wind, rain and cold and back to the happiest memories of so many wonderful vacations with friends and family… We are going to one of my favorite Caribbean food destinations, the reggae homeland, Jamaica. Mon, I love this country. It has everything the perfect vacation is about: clear waters, pristine beaches, lush islands, emerald rivers, fascinating falls, world’s best Blue Mountain coffee, reggae music, fun people and, of course, all kinds of JERK!
There is even a Jerk Trail guide mapwith few dozen of jerk eateries around the island featuring the best jerk dishes, which are not only limited to chicken, but also include pork, shrimp, sausage, even conch specialties. Particularly in Negril, I would currently also add my favorite 3 Dives and De Bar spots to the list of the most authentic Jamaican jerk experiences.
Something tells me a day on the beautiful beach followed by great local specialty sunset dinner to live reggae music for a pocket change is not only my idea of perfect. Speaking of the beach, the Seven Mile Beach in Negril is of course one of the best beaches in Jamaica (which is, reportedly and sadly, now slowly vanishing). Our favorite part of the beach stretch though is along the shore of the Bloody Bay lined in the forest of towering palms at the level of Breezes and Couples Negril hotels (the letter is hard to beat with their level of services and never disappoints).
No need to dress up, a nice barefoot walk in white powdery sand, with clear turquoise water lapping at your toes is all you need to discover the mini-Jamaica from day one: fresh breeze, smell of the pit-fire pimento leaves smoked Jerk, vendors and musicians in those quirky Jamaican hats, little food shacks made of the drift wood…

I’m still keeping one of the little bracelets the funky guy in marijuana glasses (he was smoking pot at the same time) was making for everyone passing by and just giving them away. For those interested, he was also giving a quick lecture about Rastafarianism…

And how about snorkeling, diving in caves, deep-sea fishing, scuba diving and some ocean horseback riding experiences – who on Earth can forget that thrill…

I’ve been to different parts of Jamaica and had some of the most authentic jerk experiences from street stands to beach shacks to dinner huts to hotels and restaurants. Every Jamaican chef has his/her own variation of marinade, but there are some key ingredients to it, including allspice (pimento), scallions, thyme, onion, ginger, lime and scotch bonnet peppers.

Warning: scotch bonnet peppers are extremely hot. If you don’t like it too hot and more than one scotch bonnet pepper sounds incendiary to you, limit the recipe to one scotch bonnet pepper only and then taste the marinade to figure out if you’d like to add a few more. Keep a bunch of Red Stripe beer in your fridge to cool down the flames Jamaican way.
Some Jamaican chefs like John Bull from Reggae Kitchen, don’t use ginger in marinade (he remarkably refers to his jerk prep as ‘maya-neering’ or, sometimes, ‘money-raiding’ (perhaps when he wants to share some ganja tales at the same time). Others, like the Carribeanpot Chef, do and my final collective and tested recipe is close to his.
Don’t be put off by the list of marinade ingredients. It really takes maximum 10 minutes to prepare, as long as you are mentally ready and the list is checked off. Just put everything except chicken in a food processor or blender, and puree the ingredients into the paste. Rub it into the chicken immediately and store in the fridge overnight.  Once the chicken is marinated, you can use the classic grill-smoking, oven-baking or pan-frying methods to cook it.
Note: slightly scoring chicken helps to improve the marination process.
Grilling Method:
Traditionally, the jerk is slowly cooked over the pit fire coals with lots of added smoke from pimento leaves.  At the end it’s supposed to be charred, but not over-charred. For additional smoke in your BBQ, add some smoke chips to the grill or place a piece of smoking wood (spraying it with water when it ignites).
Preheat the grill to medium-high or build a medium hot charcoal grill. Clean and lightly oil the grill. Place chicken skin side down, grill for 5 minutes to form the crust. Turn to the other side. Grill for another 5 minutes.  Cover the grill and lower the heat to the minimum. Continue grilling until cooked through for about 30-40 minutes, turning often to prevent burning. Alternatively, (and if/or pressed with other chores), you can transfer the 10-minutes grilled chicken to 350F oven and finish by baking it for 30-40 minutes.
Oven Method:
Preheat the oven to 400F. Place chicken in foiled and greased pan skin side up. Roast for 20 minutes. Turn chicken to the other side. Lower the heat to 350F and bake for another 15 minutes. Turn chicken back to skin side up and bake for another 15 minutes, or until cooked through and the juices are running clear. Transfer chicken to platter, cover loosely with foil and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Pan-Frying Method:
On a cold rainy night, try a simplified ‘spatchcocking’ (flattening) pan-fried method (I described previously in other chicken recipe) for faster and juicier results. Turn on the exhaust (you really need it for this method – the nice cooking jerk smell will go all over the place). Place the chicken on a medium-heated skillet with a bit of oil (1 tsp), brown slightly on one side for 5-6 minutes, turn, cover with heat-resistant plate and weight (I used the flat stone, you can use the brick or the pan filled with water). You will be surprised how moist, tender, yet crispy your marinated jerk can come out from just a frying pan in less than 30 minutes. Of course, this no longer will be a smoked version of jerk, but you will still get most of its amazing flavors.
Serve with a big green salad (like watercress chopped salad I posted previously) and rice to offset the heat and, naturally, a tall glass of cold beer (Red Stripe would bring you closer to Jamaican experience).
Are you ready now to make Jamaican Jerk in your kitchen? Let’s put some nice reggae from a wonderful soundtrack of the Chef movie and proceed to the recipe:

Cheers to the Jerk! Indulge yourself in real Jamaican flavors…
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One year ago: Indian Summer Dinner
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SPICY JAMAICAN JERK CHICKEN & MARINADE*
Yields: 6 to 8 portions
*Note: This marinade is also good for grilled pork, fish or sausages.

Ingredients:

2 small to medium-sized chicken (preferably, free range), cut in 4 parts each
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tbsp soya sauce
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
5-6 tbsp apple cider vinegar (optionally, other vinegar)
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of 1 orange (or ¼ cup of orange juice)
1 bunch of (6-10) scallions, coarsely chopped
½ small onion, coarsely chopped
1 thumb knuckle of ginger, skin on
1 tbsp allspice, (preferably, freshly ground)
1 tsp dried thyme or 2 tbsp fresh thyme
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cinnamon
3 cloves garlic
1 to 5 scotch bonnet peppers (begin with one and add more after for more heat if desired)*
2-3 tbsp of brown sugar, or Maple Syrup (for Canadian twist)
2 tbsp coarse sea salt
*Note: alternatively, replace scotch bonnet peppers with equal amount of habanero peppers, or double of jalapeno peppers, or 1/3 cup of scotch bonnet sauce.
Instructions:
Lightly score the chicken pieces with few not too deep slits. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.
Mix the rest of the ingredients in a blender or food processor (liquids first, then solids) into a puree. Taste for the salt and add more if desired. Check for spicy, sweet and sour:  the marinade should taste sour-sweet-salt-spicy good and balanced.
Rub the chicken with marinade and refrigerate overnight (to three-five days).
Use one of the cooking methods listed above with instructions: grilled, oven-cooked or pan-fried.
Serve with traditional rice and beans, green salad and beer.

Happy Rustic Berry Tart with Almonds


This berry tart bustling with freshness and happy summer flavors is a real catch when you are up to something special. Not only it will accompany any party table with unique charm, it is remarkably simple in preparation.  The combination of fresh berries, puff pastry and roasted almonds in this tart make a totally out of this world snack, appetizer, side course or dessert, not to mention that it goes hand in hand with array of great cheeses, wine and even champagne.

There are times in our lives when we feel the magic shift has just taken place, except it’s a brief thing and like anything ‘happy’ when such moments arrive all you can do is blurt out ‘wow, thank you’ while, in fact, you are thinking: ‘Wait a sec, what’s going on here?  Am I in some kind of a movie?’ You are so busy worrying that instead of acknowledging the obvious you don’t know whether to pinch yourself or start spinning around and pretending you are a Wonder Woman. Because, all you do know, it has been one of your wildest dreams and now you feel it’s too good to be true. Only when back home you are finally convinced that it was you and your effort that just got rewarded and your life will never be the same. End of story. You can exhale, overwhelmingly happy, and have a good laugh at yourself for being so stressed. Naturally, you celebrate with your beloved ones with champagne and something exquisite and memorable because things like that are much better remembered in retrospect. 

Well, in my state of excitement I would play the jazz flute of destiny if I could, but I made this amazing Fresh Berry Tart instead (following my mom’s spur of the moment recipe) with fresh currants, gooseberries, grapes, yellow plums, rhubarb and wine jelly. What a great partner for any parte-e-e!

Although it looks promisingly fattening, fear not, the amount of sugar in it is minimal and the puff pastry open crust is not exaggerated, but gives that freshly baked state of crisp and buttery flakiness you are looking for in the high-end desserts. The runny berries center, both sour and rich, gives an aromatic citrusy tang with a backdrop of nuttiness from roasted almonds – simply irresistible! Watch the simple steps and follow the recipe below:

Even if the craft of the pastry chef is by necessity highly precise, you can vary the seasonal fruits in this tart, from the super-juicy ones, to more dry by adding more or less jelly and water into the syrup. Try the wine jelly (red or white) instead of the berry for once, it adds an interesting spike in flavor and expands the variety of wines you can take with the tart. 

The other important ingredients besides the berries, jelly and pastry dough are:
Crumbs, which can be Panko, Graham or semi-salted cracker crumbs depending on whether you like it sweet, semi-sweet or salty-sweet.
Roasted slivered almonds and Demerara sugar or (my preferred) cracked or flaked maple sugar.

The number of dishes that can partner with this tart is quite astonishing: from snack and appetizer in tapas or aperitif bar, to BBQ red meats, to desserts with assorted cheeses – it will be a hit in any given combination.

Finally, it is an awesome way to eat the freshly collected berries from your garden, forest, farm or local market.

Call it happy endings, or beginnings or just a HAPPY tart, ultimately, everyone deserves to share a bit of this happiness. Major tip: serve it freshly baked and you will be astonished how many of your guests will take a second piece.  So worth an effort, you won’t regret! T.

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RUSTIC FRESH BERRY TART with ROASTED ALMONDS
Yields: 8 servings
Ingredients:
1 puff pastry sheet (1/2 store bought pack of 397g), thawed
3 cups mixed fresh berries (preferably tart, like currants, sour cherries, plums, etc.)
¼ cup sugar
3-4 tbsp. fruit or wine jelly
1-2 tbsp. water
1 cup Panko, Graham or semi-salted crackers crumbs
2-3 tbsp. butter in small pieces
1 cup roasted slivered almonds
1 egg wash
2 tbsp. Demerara or cracked maple sugar
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 375F. Melt the jelly with water over the medium heat. Add 2 cups of mixed berries and sugar and mix gently. Bring to simmer for 1 minute and set aside to cool for 7-10 minutes.
Roll out the dough on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Optionally, cut the edges of the dough square to make more round/oval tart shape. Spread the crumbs in the middle leaving the ring of about 2 inches around.  Place the bits of butter over the crumbs. Spoon the berries out of the jelly syrup and spread over the crumbs without touching the edges. Reserve the leftover syrup liquid. Fold the edges over the berries, pinching the edges to form the rustic tart and leaving the center open. Brush with an egg wash or 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until the edges of tart are golden brown. Remove the tart, scatter 1 cup of fresh berries, spoon the leftover syrup over and toss with almonds and cracked maple or Demerara sugar. Return to the oven for another 7-10 minutes. Remove and let stand for 5-7 minutes. Cut and serve hot, warm or cold as an appetizer (with cheese), side course (with roasted red meats), or dessert (with ice cream or parfait).

End of Line Adventures: Whole Fish Grilled or Baked in Salt


‘Eww, what’s that?’ I can hear you saying looking at the images while I’m posting this almost a week upon drafting (sorry, I’m temporarily in vacation and away from my computer). Well, what can I say, at least I’m not offering you a blood sausage or a liver pate (not just yet, because one day I surely will). Some foods deserve more attention than they actually get and a whole fish is one of them… I know that besides the ocean/lake taste, scaling, gutting or de-boning fish may repulse some people and I do hope you are not one of them. But if you are, in favor of its deservingly good rep among healthy celeb foodies like Martha Stewart, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sting, Trudie Styler and others, I can tell you that poached, steamed, baked, roasted or grilled whole fish is actually considered to be a light and elegant meal by many; and is a must do on many personal chefs’ menus.  This recipe is one of the easiest and the most impressive one in this repertoire.
Here is what you can do with a pack of salt and one whole fish. Just gut the fish, keep the scale on, wrap it in salt (with the choice of your seasoning) and grill it or bake it for 25 to 35 minutes depending on the size of the fish. I personally find this trick (leaving the scale on) invaluable for fishing or camping menus, when you catch a great perch or walleye (both are great tasting fish, but a bloody disaster when it comes to scaling).  The scale will come off with the salt crust easily upon cooking (where not, just gently remove it with the sharp knife). 
The result: moist, well-done, packed with oceanic or lake flavors tamed by the diffusing aromas of whichever herbs, condiment or spices (from peppercorns and bay leaf to mustard, sriracha, soya sauce, to lemon, bacon, salami, parsley, thyme, or just any edible wild grass you can find around your camping spot including young cattails shoots and wild garlic) you decide to insert in the fish cavity before encrusting it in salt.  Truly, I’ve seen no better or easier way to bake, roast or grill the whole fish to perfection, keeping it simple, not to mention the impressive presentation. Don’t worry about the saltiness, once you break off the crust and remove the salt, the flesh will be just perfectly salty and succulent. 
Earlier this summer we went for our first fishing trip this year to Champlain Lake at the US border for walleye and perch, but only caught some baby pikes, which we released back into the lake. For the times like that I always bring at least one whole fresh fish with me in the cooler to grill later on a BBQ, so we can embrace the ambiance and the great fishing spirit no matter what, and share the incredible fishing stories over the plate of what could have been the fish we caught. 

This time is was a haddock (previously I also salt-crusted successfully white fish, tilapia, perch and walleye). Haddock is great for the recipe: the flavors are enhanced and there is some smokiness added to the taste. We had it with salsa verde and fingerling potatoes and everyone loved the tender savory fillets sprinkled with parsley and drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice. 

Great tip from Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen:rub the fish with soya sauce before encrusting it in salt to give it some Asian flavor kick:
Even those in our gang who don’t usually admire any kind of fish (they fish for sport, we fish for fish) reluctantly admitted it tasted great. You will never know until you try it for yourself. Good luck fishing and grilling; and as the Irish blessing says: ‘May the holes in your net be no larger than the fish in it.’


WHOLE FISH BAKED OR GRILLED IN SALT CRUST
Ingredients:
One whole fresh fish (1 to 2 lbs), gutted, with head, tail and scales left on
1 tbsp soya sauce, rubbed in fish (optional)
8-10 black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
Small bunch of fresh parsley (or mix of parsley and thyme), chopped
2-3 lbs of coarse salt, preferably sea salt
3+ tbsp of water or beer (to mix with salt)
Lemon, butter, olive oil to sprinkle with when serving
2-3 scallions and some fresh parsley, minced, for garnish
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400F, or the BBQ to medium high.
Rinse the fish in cold water, pat dry with paper towels. Insert the peppercorns and parsley inside the cavity of the fish.
Mix the salt in a bowl with enough water or beer to make a consistency of the sand castle sand. Spread half quantity of the salt on a roasting pan lined with aluminum foil slightly bigger than the fish. Lay the bay leaves on the salt and place the fish on the bay leaves. Spread the remaining slat over the fish until it’s totally encrusted. Leave the tail fin exposed if necessary.
Place the pan with fish on the middle rack in the oven or on the BBQ grill and bake for 25 (for 1 lbs) to 35 (for 2 lbs fish) minutes. The salt crust will become dry and hard. Remove the fish and gently crack of the layer of salt, removing as much as you can. The skin will come off the fish as well (use the sharp knife to remove the rest if necessary).   
Remove the fish fillets and divide between warm serving plates. Drizzle with olive oil or melted butter and lemon juice and sprinkle with scallions and chopped parsley if desired.